City intervenes to improve rail service

Passengers are fleeing crippled Metrorail in their droves, but Cape Town’s economic survival hinges on that exodus being reversed, says a City transport boss.

Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, believes Cape Town can’t solve its transport woes without rail.

Metrorail passenger numbers have plummeted since 2015.

“Passenger rail numbers in the Cape Town have fallen by 30% from 2015 to 2016/17,” said Mr Herron.

“According to the latest data received from Metrorail, there were, on average, 2.7 million fewer rail journeys in Cape Town per month in 2016/17 when compared with 2015/16.”

Commuters could not rely on the trains to travel to and from work.

The problem, said Mr Herron, was that passenger rail was the backbone of the city’s public transport network, accounting for almost half of all commuter journeys.

The commuters abandoning Metrorail over the past two years had ended up on the roads in private vehicles, minibus taxis or buses.

The City, said Mr Herron, needed to step into the breach now to turn things around because if it waited for national government to intervene, there might well no longer be a passenger rail service in Cape Town to save by then.

“We are facing a real risk that passenger rail in Cape Town could effectively collapse before the Department of Transport’s National Rail Policy of June 2017 is finalised to devolve the management of passenger rail to municipalities. This could take another two or three years,” he said.

Fixing passenger rail in Cape Town was akin to a business rescue, said Mr Herron.

Without a functioning passenger rail service, Cape Town’s economic growth would be “severely hampered”, travelling times and transport costs would continue rising and the environment would suffer from higher carbon emissions and traffic congestion.